When you buy an ant farm, let’s face it, it’s usually as a gift for a child, and getting your live ants becomes a priority. Some adults buy ant farms as desk ornaments, particularly the newer gel ant farms, but, on the whole it’s as an educational toy for a child.

I don’t know about you, but I can remember being given certain presents for Christmas that required batteries. And they never had batteries in them and my parents had never had the foresight to go out and get a stock in. The result? Frustration.

And, of course, in those days, all the shops were closed for the Christmas holiday so, by the time they were open again, to buy our precious batteries, the excitement and novelty of the toy had worn off. It seemed to take the edge off things a bit.

Well, it’s the same with ant farms. Usually, when you buy one, the kit contains a certificate that you can mail off to a supplier and then, some weeks later, a tube of ants will arrive for you to put into it. Well, that’s no good to kids, I can tell you.

What is infinitely preferable is to be able to buy your kit complete with your tube of ants all at the same time. That way, when the precious package arrives it will contain everything you need to get up and running immediately. So you can set up your ant farm, let it stabilize, introduce your ants (usually Western Harvester Ants, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis) into their new habitat and give them a while to settle in, before presenting it as a gift to your precious child.

I’ve been down this route too many times before to repeat the mistake of giving a child only half a present. So, my motto at Christmas is the same as the Boy Scouts’, ‘Be prepared’. By getting your live ants in plenty of time, you’ll be prepared too and will be able to avoid tears just at the time when it should be all smiles.